Picture Snob

July 18, 2011

Orchid Rock Rose is great for a dry, rocky spot


Here the Orchid Rockrose flower is just awakening for the day. Each flower will flatten out, reveal its inner markings, and then fall petal by petal gracefully to the ground with the increasing heat of the afternoon. The next morning the show will start all over again. This lasts for about 4 weeks in early spring.

Rockrose family is a group of shrubs which are covered with flowers that open in the morning and whose petals have fallen by evening. This is a Mediterraen plant that does well with hot dry summers. They also have adapted to the wildfires that frequently eradicate large areas of forest. The plants cast their seeds in the soil during the growth period, but the latter don't germinate right in the next season. Their hard coating is impermeable to the water, and thus the seeds remain dormant for a long period of time. This together with their small size allows it to establish a large seed bank rather deep in the soil. Once the fire comes and kills the vegetation in the area, the seed coating softens or cracks as a result of the heating, and the surviving seeds germinate shortly after the fire.

Perhaps the most beautiful of all rockroses, Orchid Rockrosegrows up to five feet high and as wide. It spills over rocks and hillsides. It is good also in large open spaces. Orchid Rockrose can layer and root along its stem and spread out indefinitely. The plant sounds perfect for the cut bank in back of my house. I started looking for sources and came up with only one.

At Orchid Rockrose

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July 11, 2011

Buckwheat makes a great summer cover crop

Buckwheat is an unusually fast-growing crop with a variety of uses. Most buckwheat is ground into flour and used for a variety of foods, including noodles in Japan and pancakes and breakfast cereals in the U.S. Russians and eastern Europeans make a wide range of foods with buckwheat, most famously, buchwheat groats or kasha.

But for our purposes, buckwheat can be used as a cover crop. It will smother weeds and improve the soil. Buckwheat flowers profusely, making it popular with bee keepers and an attractive crop in the landscape. Its flexibility and wide adaptation led it to be grown on more than a million acres in the U.S. in the late 1800s, even though it is not native to our country. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were two of the first American farmers to grow buckwheat and recognize the benefit to their crop rotations.

You might try it on a bare section of the garden or between the rows.

At Buckwheat Cover Crop

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July 5, 2011

Territorial Seed fall catalog arrives on the solstice


Summer planting means winter harvest is the by line on the magazine and so we get a reminder that now is the time to plant for fall. That is very hard to believe this year because the weather only now has turned hot so it's hard to think about cool weather crops when the tomatoes and peppers are just starting to prosper.

There are several mid summer chores I'm ready to take on. I'm going to till up the strawberry beds, both of them and get new plants. I'll build up a raised bed with a lot of chicken manure put in and all new plants. They should be bearing well next year when the grandchildren come and I look forward to starting all over again with strawberries. They are one of my favorite crops and i really like to have enought to freeze for winter and to make jam and that hasn't been happening for several years.

I noticed that my garlic is starting to make flowers heads and reminded myself to cut those off to let all the energy go to the bulb. The flowers on the swiss chard can be trimmed off also and a side dressing of manure is called for on the carrots.

But the first page I turned to in the Territorial seed catalog was the spinach. They are selling an organic an heirloom seed called Galilee which is heat tolerant and very suited for summer growing. The leaves can be used for salads and also can be cooked.

I think this is worth a try.

At Galilee Spinach

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July 1, 2011

Yellow Trefoil is growing well in rocky soil and drought


I would love to find some seeds for this plant but the only place online I found them was in the UK. These little clover like plants have established themselves in my rocky barren soil where the topsoil was scraped off to build the house. They grow low to the ground and are covered with small yellow flowers.

With some research I discovered they are considered invasive weeds. I should be so lucky. The picture above shows an upright plant, but they usually creep along the ground, making a nice ground cover and all the while fixing nitrogen in the soil. Yellow trefoil is native to Europe but has spread to North America and is often mixed with red clover seed. It may have come in the package of wildflowers I bought and scattered last fall. At any rate, I am very glad to see it and hope I can find a outlet that sells the seeds. If anyone knows of such, please let me know.

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June 30, 2011

Purslane--it's annoying and it's edible


The main summer weed in my garden is purslane. It starts so innocently as a tiny purple tinted sprout and soon grows into a spreading, whorl of succulent leaves on a reddish stem and a tiny yellow flower whose seed pod soon opens to drops tiny seeds for next year. The first year I gardened, I discovered it was edible and suggested to my visiting father that we could eat it. His reaction was typical for someone raised in the depression who had to eat "weeds". We tried it pickled and as a salad green and were mostly unimpressed. A friend of mine ordered purslane seeds from a catalogue with her other garden vegetables, not realizing until it grew that she had it in abundance all over her garden.

The following years of gardening, I mostly pulled it out. You have to get it out of the garden because it lives on after being pulled from the ground and will still drop seeds for the next year for you to pull again. One plant can produce over 50,000 seeds. One gardener who should know said that it provides tons of nitrogen for the garden if you till it in and I sometimes do that also, although it is warm weather crop and the nitrogen is leached out here by the winter rains. Another article I read says that it is a good companion plant whose deep roots often break ground for crops like corn to deepen their roots. Whether or not it lives in my garden depends mostly on my energy level for weeding.

Purslane originated in India and was supposedly it was Ghandi's favorite plant. Since I have the usual abundance this year, I'm going to try it in the green bean salad. Supposedly it can be used as a substitute for spinach in lasagnas and pasta dishes. It has very high nutritional values being full or omega 3's, and very low in calories,

At Organic Golden Purslane - 500 Seeds - Veggie

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June 20, 2011

Strawberry Fields, but not forever!


I love strawberries. I have always grown enough that I could actually get my fill of eating them and then begin to freeze the extras or make jam. I remember taking strawberries to a potluck in October which wowed everyone. My memories of these good years has come to haunt me.

Even though I weed and fertilize and water, recent crops have been poor. I went out these last two days and weeded and picked berries. Most of the berries were small and not very sweet and I began to realize the bed was long overdue for replanting. Strawberries have declining yields after two years and I had conveniently forgotten how long ago I had planted the berries. So after the June harvest is over, I'm going to till the bed under and I think I will place the new bed in the perinneal garden away from the fence so that the grass from the lawn will not be a constant problem trying to creep into the stawberries. I'll use raised beds with lots of fertilizer and I bet next year I'll have bumper crop!

At Everbearing Strawberries

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June 17, 2011

Wildflowers are a great ground cover


I planted wildflowers around the new house a year ago and this spring they have self sewed and look wonderful. The poppies especially are beautiful. The clover is thick in places and really lush. I hope it is adding nitrogen to the soil and the grasses are knee high and still green.

It has been a wet and cool year so far here in Northern California. I'm going to let the wildflowers go until they make seed so that they can self sew again. There are many varieties of wildflowers, from low growing to partial shade. You can check this out at your local nursery, but Amazon has some for sale, They also have a butterfly mix and a perinneal mix.

At Wildflowers

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June 16, 2011

A tribute to the wild azaleas


I follow the scent
of air sagging
with sweetness.
I find them
In deep shadow
under the pine trees,
great mounds of them.

They blare color like trumpets--
pink, yellow and white merge
on fluted edge,
and furl outward,
opening to the
of pistil and stamen
tipped with green.

I gather masses of their savage beauty.

They refuse
to be arranged in vases

They cling to their wild intractability

The rain shadow that makes
their profusion possible
ends at my land.
Every spring I am blessed
with their untamed and
rash extravagance--

They who have never known shame.

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June 15, 2011

California Lilac is lovely in June


Locally this plant is called "buckbrush" because deer browse it and lie, during the heat of the day, in its shade. It has come back very strong after the fire wiped out overgrowth. It's latin name is Ceanothus. There are about 80 varieties of this species and most are evergreen. The flowers are tiny and produced in large, dense clusters that are very fragant which the wind carries the fragrance. It is very pleasant to have these plants in abundance in June when they flower.

The seeds of this plant can lie dormant for hundreds of years, and Ceanothus species are typically dependent on forest fires to trigger germination of its seeds. If you are looking for a plant that adapts well to dry hot summers and wet winters, will take snow and cold weather, this is a perfect choice. Deer may browse them, but the plants seem to flourish anyway. The tiny leaves lend themselves well to shearing which can be done after bloom to create a hedge. The natural form of ceanothus to develop into an attractive border specimen. Plants will grow 6' x 6' and are best suited for sunny dry sites.

The one linked below is a lovely blue.61EzZJz3MZL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

At California Lilac

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June 6, 2011

Rhododendrons are amazingly beautiful


When I first came to New England I wondered about this rather large leaved green shrub that was so commonly planted around houses here. It was green all winter long which I figured was the reason it was so ubiquitous. But once here in late May, I was amazed to see the plant burst into brilliant color, rose or white, with flowers at once large, and massed in great clusters.

These plants need little or no care during the year. In winter the leaves take cold down to 0 degrees or less. The foliage droops a little but the cold does no harm. Once well established rhododendrons need little care.

Azaleas and rhododendrons are shrubs for all seasons. In winter some stand out with large evergreen leaves. I. The spectacular spring flowers of azaleas and rhododendrons make them among the most popular garden shrubs.

At Ramapo Rhododendron

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